MPs call for hike in commuter allowance

Amid rising petrol prices, a cross-party group of MPs is calling for a hike in the Pendlerpauschale commuter allowance, which lets German workers write off travel costs on their tax.

MPs call for hike in commuter allowance
Photo: DPA

Karl Holmeier, deputy chairman of the conservatives’ employees group in the Bundestag, told daily Mitteldeutsche Zeitung that commuters needed to be relieved from higher fuel prices.

Members of the centre-left opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the socialist Left party joined the call, though the environmentalist Greens oppose such a raise.

Holmeier, of the Bavarian conservative Christian Social Union, said the cost could be offset by the extra VAT that the government was now raking in on the higher cost of petrol.

“When the petrol price climbs by 10 cents, the government takes 1.9 cents per litre in extra VAT,” he said. “We should put this money back into the commuter allowance.”

He added that the competition watchdog, the Bundeskartellamt, had to act against possible price-fixing by fuel companies.

The economic policy spokesman for the SPD’s parliamentary group, Garrelt Duin, backed the call for a higher allowance and demanded the government to put forward a comprehensive package to ease transport costs.

Left party chief Klaus Ernst has previously called for a raise in the Pendlerpauschale from the present 30 cents to 45 cents per kilometre.

But the Greens parliamentary group leader Bärbel Höhn told the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger that a rise in the allowance could encourage fuel companies to further manipulate prices.

DAPD/The Local/djw

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Swedish government shelves plans for two fast train links

Sweden's government has called for a halt to planning to faster train links between Gothenburg and Borås and Jönköping and Hässleholm, in a move local politicians have called "a catastrophe".

Swedish government shelves plans for two fast train links

In an announcement slipped out just before Christmas Eve, the government said it had instructed the Swedish Transport Administration to stop all planning for the Borås to Gothenburg link, stop the ongoing work on linking Hässleholm and Lund. 

“The government wants investments made in the railway system to first and foremost make it easier for commuting and cargo traffic, because that promotes jobs and growth,” infrastructure minister Andreas Carlson said in a press release. “Our approach is for all investments in the railways that are made to be more cost effective than if the original plan for new trunk lines was followed.” 

Ulf Olsson, the Social Democrat mayor in Borås, told the TT newswire that the decision was “a catastrophe”. 

“We already have Sweden’s slowest railway, so it’s totally unrealistic to try to build on the existing railway,” he said. We are Sweden’s third biggest commuting region and have no functioning rail system, and to release this the day before Christmas Eve is pretty symptomatic.”

Per Tryding, the deputy chief executive for the Southern Sweden Chamber of Commerce, complained that the decision meant Skåne, Sweden’s most southerly county, would now have no major rail infrastructure projects. 

“Now the only big investment in Skåne which was in the plan is disappearing, and Skåne already lay far behind Gothenburg and Stockholm,” he said.

“This is going to cause real problems and one thing that is certain that it’s going to take a very long time, whatever they eventually decide. It’s extremely strange to want to first suspend everything and then do an analysis instead of doing it the other way around.”  

The government’s instructions to the transport agency will also mean that there will be no further planning on the so-called central parts of the new planned trunk lines, between Linköping and Borås and Hässleholm and Jönköping. 

Carlson said that the government was prioritising “the existing rail network, better road standards, and a build-out of charging infrastructure”.